Payment with a €50 banknote

Further drop in counterfeits in circulation

In 2019, the Bundesbank removed around 55,200 counterfeit euro notes from circulation in Germany. This represents a year-on-year decline of 5%. The resulting loss amounted to €3.3 million, after a figure of €3.4 million in 2018.

“The number of counterfeits has decreased again, thanks to the introduction of the new Europa series of banknotes with their enhanced anti-counterfeiting features,” commented Johannes Beermann, member of the Bundesbank’s Executive Board. “In particular, the number of counterfeit €50 banknotes has fallen significantly,” he noted.

Fewer counterfeit €50 notes

The number of counterfeit €50 banknotes in circulation fell from 41,933 in 2018 to 31,038 in 2019. This represents a decline of 26%. Overall, €20 and €50 banknotes accounted for around 80% of counterfeits in Germany. The table below shows the distribution of counterfeits in 2019.

Banknotes

Number

Share (rounded)

€5

526

1%

€10

2,397

4%

€20

13,463

24%

€50

31,028

56%

€100

5,003

9%

€200

1,299

2%

€500

1,443

3%

Total

55,159

At around 27,600, the number of counterfeits detected in the second half of 2019 matched the figure for the first half of the year (27,600).

Larger numbers of counterfeit €100, €200 and €500 banknotes

The Bundesbank recorded a growing number of counterfeit €100, €200 and €500 banknotes, with counterfeiters attempting to dispose of the old counterfeits following the issuance of new €100, €200 and €500 banknotes in May 2019.

Number of counterfeit coins significantly higher

In 2019, approximately 42,100 counterfeit coins were detected in German payments, which was 27% more than in the previous year. In 2018, around 33,100 counterfeit coins were identified. All counterfeits were of the three highest denominations, with the €2 euro coin alone accounting for a share of 88%. Statistically, this equates to five counterfeit coins per 10,000 inhabitants.

The following table shows the distribution of counterfeits across the individual denominations in 2019.

Coins

Number

Share (rounded)

50 cents

963

2%

€1

4,030

10%

€2

37,058

88%

Total

42,051

Fewer counterfeit banknotes in the euro area

At roughly 22,300, the number of counterfeit coins detected in the second half of 2019 was higher than the figure registered in the first six months of the year (around 19,800).

Fewer counterfeits in the euro area

In 2019, the incidence of counterfeits in the euro area was down slightly on the previous year. In total, 559,000 counterfeit banknotes were recorded, 4,000 fewer (0.7%) than in 2018. At the European level, as in Germany, there were noticeably fewer counterfeit €50 banknotes (27%). 44% of all counterfeits were €50 banknotes, followed by €20 banknotes (31%). At €29.2 million, the losses to the euro area as a result of counterfeit money were slightly smaller than in 2018. Counterfeit money stemming from Germany accounts for just 9.9% of the total figure for the euro area.

Recognising counterfeit banknotes

Anyone can check banknotes themselves using the quick “feel, look, tilt” method. Counterfeit money is not eligible for replacement.

Several security features can be checked using this test.

  • Feel:
    • ­Banknote paper has a special texture. It feels crisp and firm. It is often possible to identify simple counterfeits just by feeling the banknote. However, to be on the safe side, we recommend checking other features as well.
    • Raised print on the front of the banknotes can be identified by touch, for example. Banknotes belonging to the Europa series show the letters “BCE ECB EЦБ EZB EKP EKT EKB BĊE EBC” (and “ESB” on denominations of €50 and above) across their top edge as well as a series of short lines on the left and right-hand edges.
  • Look:
    • When any banknote is held against the light, the watermark appears as a silhouetted image in the unprinted area. 
    • On denominations of €20 and above belonging to the Europa series, the upper section of the hologram contains a transparent window showing a portrait of Europa’s face.
  • Tilt:
    • ­The hologram images change when the banknote is tilted. Rainbow-coloured effects appear around the motifs.
    • An emerald number can also be seen on the bottom left-hand side on the front of the banknotes belonging to the Europa series. When the banknote is tilted, the emerald number changes colour and the effect of a light stripe moving up and down becomes visible.
    • The €100 and €200 banknotes have been equipped with new and improved security features. The emerald number contains several euro symbols that change in size and colour. The hologram contains a satellite feature showing two euro symbols that move around the denomination number.

When checking a suspect banknote, it is advisable to compare it with one that is known to be genuine.

Checking coins for authenticity

The following pointers can make it easier to identify genuine coins.

  • On genuine euro coins, the motif stands out clearly from the background of the coin. By contrast, the image on counterfeit coins often appears blurred, and the surface of the coins may be uneven.
  • Counterfeits generally differ slightly in colour from genuine coins.
  • The edge inscriptions of genuine €2 coins are sharp. Those on counterfeit coins are frequently incomplete or irregular.
  • Genuine €1 and €2 coins are only slightly magnetic. They are attracted to magnets but can be removed again with very little effort. Counterfeit coins, on the other hand, are usually either non-magnetic or are strongly attracted to magnets.

Counterfeit prevention

Through its branch network, the Bundesbank provides training courses free of charge to the banking industry, retailers and any other interested parties. Participants are given typical counterfeits to test using the “feel, look and tilt” method. Features that can be checked using magnifying glasses, counterfeit detector markers or ultraviolet lamps are also explained. However, these tools, which are often used in the commercial sector, should always be combined with a check of other security features. Contact details for the branches may be found on the Bundesbank's website.